EU court rap for toxic waste

The time bomb created by the hundreds of thousands of tons of hazardous industrial waste that has for decades accumulated at various locations across Greece with virtually no measures to safeguard public health was officially condemned yesterday by the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The ECJ’s censure, which had been expected, paves the way once again for Greece’s referral to the court and the possible imposition of a heavy fine. It follows years of fruitless efforts by the European Commission to spur the relevant Greek authorities to implement European legislation on waste disposal. The three European directives on the issue stipulate precisely how industrial waste should be disposed, first of all to ensure that human life is not endangered. Greece, however, opted for «temporary storage» of its industrial waste, mainly in the yards of manufacturing plants. As a result, the European Commission referred Greece to the ECJ because it deemed that «the planning for the management of hazardous waste in Greece fails to comply with the requirements of Community legislation.» In its referral, the Commission points out that «there are no appropriate and adequate installations for the processing or disposal of hazardous waste» while adding that the method of disposal for most such waste produced in Greece is incompatible with EU law. The ECJ took the same view and condemned Greece for violating all three EU directives. In its defense before the court, Greece acknowledged that the national plan for waste management «does not cover all types of hazardous waste» and «does not include maps showing the locations and facilities for the disposal of hazardous waste, so that their correct operation can be verified.» The ECJ further accepted the Commission’s charge that the appropriate infrastructure for the processing of hazardous waste has never been constructed in Greece.